The best way to soak in Joshua Tree’s bohemian desert vibes? A revitalized geodesic dome from the ’80s, of course.
Before it was rescued and transformed into one of Joshua Tree’s most sought-after Airbnbs, the Dome in the Desert looked a lot like a dorm room — and not a nice one.
One bedroom’s floor was covered in old, rusty weights, with windows draped in sheets and paper-thin shades. The kitchen was an assortment of outdated wood and tile surfaces, none of which matched. The home looked more “Breaking Bad” than Dwell, and it was hard to understand how anyone could see it’s potential to be a creative oasis.
Then, in 2013, Kathrin and Brian Smirke of artist-developer design team We Are In Our Element came across the dome after placing a Craigslist ad looking for a second home. The duo ended up buying the home with the goal of creating a weekend escape away from the chaos of LA.
“It was love at first sight,” Kathrin told Free People in 2014. “What better place to own a geodesic dome than in Joshua Tree?”
Major renovations took the better part of the year, but the result was a unique home entirely their own. Together, Kathrin and Brian’s had previously worked in fashion, interior design, art, real estate, and music, and by combining those disciplines, they created a hip-but-timeless dwelling that mirrors Joshua Tree’s eclectic, artsy reputation.
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The Dome’s revival coincided with Joshua Tree’s rise in popularity. In 2013, Joshua Tree National Park saw just under 1.4 million visitors, a number that had grown slowly since the one million visitors recorded each year in the 1990s. By 2019, well into the age of Coachella, Instagram, and Airbnb, the park saw nearly three million visitors annually.
Today, more than seven years after the Dome’s renovation, Joshua Tree’s Airbnb market is saturated with hip, resuscitated short-term rentals capitalizing on the area’s trendiness. The quiet quirkiness of this desert sanctuary is quiet no more, but fortunately, it’s still quirky. And for better or worse, Joshua Tree is now a hot bed for revitalized weekend getaways.
Still, the Dome in the Desert is one of Joshua Tree’s lasting – and most well-known – makeover projects. Over the years, the Airbnb rental has amassed more than 700 reviews from guests around the world who experienced Joshua Tree’s magic firsthand.
“The dome in the desert is quite possibly the best Airbnb I’ve ever stayed in. Beautifully appointed and quite spacious with lovely views of the desert.”
Reviews praise the space’s bright, airy layout and unique decor, much of which Kathrin and Brian made by hand with repurposed materials (in true Joshua Tree fashion.)
“They have so thoughtfully, chicly and comfortably designed the incredible cozy geodesic dome and it is like no where else you will stay.”
Staying at the Dome does more than just tick a box on the Instagrammable checkbox – it’s a genuine creative refuge designed to clear the mind. Stargazing in Joshua Tree, particularly for those from L.A., is damn near a spiritual experience, and if the skies don’t do it, hiking in Joshua Tree National Park just might.
There are fancier Airbnbs in the area (and certainly more expensive ones,) but retreating to Joshua Tree isn’t traditionally about posh accommodations. Artists flocking here over the decades were drawn by the desert’s stark beauty, and the Dome embodies the same minimalist and organic spirit
Staying here even for a weekend is a chance to embrace what desert offers — and run with it. Just as creativity flourishes under constraints, the best getaways often have less in the way of luxury. The Dome is an incredibly comfortable home, to be sure, but not having a luxurious hot tub out back might not be a bad thing.
The Dome’s surroundings are just as appealing: the home is on a secluded lot with the nearest neighbor a half-mile away. Desert views unfold in all directions, and the town’s main strip of shops and restaurants is only a few minutes away.
Joshua Tree may not be the under-the-radar mecca for drifters that it once was, but there are still plenty of places get an authentic JT experience. The iconic Dome in the Desert is a good place to start.
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Plan Your Trip
The Dome in the Desert is located just north of downtown Joshua Tree 15 minutes from the park’s west entrance. Joshua Tree National Park is open year-round, but spring and fall are the best times to visit. Spring marks the arrival of wildflower season, and fall is a good time to hike with slightly smaller crowds (slightly.)
Summer in Joshua Tree can be deceptively hot, so be sure to stock up on water and sun-protective gear before exploring the desert. Winter’s a great time to beat the crowds, especially for rock climbing and hiking, but nights are cold and it can snow at higher elevations.
After roaming the park, be sure to hit some of Joshua Tree’s best art installations, places to eat, and things to do in the area. And if the Dome in the Desert is booked, check out Kathrin and Brian’s other places, Cabin Cabin Cabin and The Shack Attack. You can also follow all of We Are In Our Element’s adventures on Instagram.
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